Reshaping our World View

Bible Book: Acts  10 : 1-35
Subject: Missions; Evangelism

We all need a new view of our world, but only God can reshape our world and the way we view it. Today signifies the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Foreign Missions in our church, and we're to pray for missionaries who are reshaping their part of the world. And we also must seek to know what God would have us do and say to reshape our part of the world.

As Christians, we should endeavor to reshape our world by crossing cultural barriers, racial barriers, economic barriers and geographical barriers with the love and the message of Jesus Christ. Look in verses 34 and 35 of our text (read). God is "no respecter" of persons. He shows no partiality. His kingdom is for everyone. That is the principle that this passage of Scripture proclaims.

The book of Acts is the exciting story of the spread of Christianity from its provincial beginning to a place of worldwide prominence. Luke told the story of the dramatic expansion of Christianity from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria, and then to the ends of the earth. As the gospel was spread, one barrier after another was broken down. One of those momentous barriers, or breaking experiences, is recorded in our text.

Of all the barriers in the ancient world, perhaps the barrier between the Jew and the Gentile was the most formidable. The Jews and the Gentiles were worlds apart in their thinking; completely segregated in their activity. Yet in this story we see the barrier broken down as Gentiles become a part of the Christian church along with the Jews. In this text we find the story of the conversion of Cornelius. And this story provides a beautiful illustration of how we can reshape our world view.

I. The Focus Of The Heart Of God

As we look at our text, we will discover that the focus of God's heart was upon a man by the name of Cornelius. Now, of course, we know that the focus of God's heart is upon every lost man, because the Bible says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son." But that is the macro view. That is the large scale view. For our purposes this morning, I want us to look at the micro view. I want us to zero in on this one man, this solitary incident, to illustrate the heart of God and how He desires to see men saved.

The focus of God's heart is upon the whole world. That is a general statement. But specifically, we see in our text that the heart of God is focused upon Cornelius. In the profile of him we're given, Cornelius, first of all, was a man of courage. In verse 1 we find that he was "a centurion of what was called the Italian regiment."


The city of Caesarea was the headquarters for the procurator of Judea, Samaria and Idumea. In the city was an Italian regiment which consisted of about 600 seasoned soldiers. They were stationed there for the purpose of protecting the procurator and keeping order. The regiment was divided into groups of 100. Over each 100 men was a non-commissioned officer called a centurion. These centurions were held in high esteem in the ancient world. They were expected to stand fast in the face of opposition and die at their post if necessary.

James Garfield said, "If there is one thing upon earth that mankind loves and admires better than another, it is a brave man - a man who dares to look the devil in the face and tell him he is the devil." Apparently Cornelius was that kind of man.

But not only was he a man of courage, he was a man of character. The Bible calls him, in verse 2, "a devout man, and one who feared God." The term “God-fearer” was more than just a description. This label was given to those non-Jews in the ancient world who were attracted to the Jewish religion. These God-fearers did not actually become converts to Judaism, but they devoted themselves to the study of the law and followed the worship patterns and the moral standards of the Jews. Cornelius was thus a man of integrity and ethical uprightness. He was a man of character.

Cornelius was also a man of charity. Luke said Cornelius “gave alms generously to the people.” Over in Warwickshire, England, near an ivy-grown church is a cemetery that has a head stone with this inscription: “Sacred to the memory of Charles George Gordon who at all times and everywhere gave his strength to the weak, his substance to the poor, his sympathy to the suffering, his heart to God.”

But not only was Cornelius a man of courage, and a man of character, and a man of charity, he was also a man of communion. Look in verse 2. It says that he "prayed to God always." He was a man whose life was permeated with prayer. E. Stanley Jones once said, "I find myself better or worse as I pray more or less It works with almost mathematical precision." Like E. Stanley Jones, Cornelius was a man of communion.

When we see this profile of the man, we see that Cornelius was a beautiful example of high moral living. He was an ideal citizen, a courageous leader, a religious person, and a moral man. He was fine as a man could be. The point of the story, however, was that his courage, character, charity and communion were not enough to make him a Christian. As good as Cornelius was, he was not good enough. Something more was needed. He needed Jesus.

That's why the focus of God's heart was upon Cornelius. With all of the good things that could be said about him, he still needed a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. But let's move from the focus of the heart of God to consider…

II. The Preparation By The Spirit Of God

First of all, we see that the Spirit prepares Cornelius. Although Cornelius had not yet been saved, I believe that he was seeking after God. Of course, in John 7:17, the Bible says, "If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know the truth." Verse 4 says that his prayers went up before God as a memorial, and God dispatched an angel to tell Cornelius what to do. The angel said that Cornelius was to send men to Joppa, about thirty miles away, for one named Simon Peter.

Now, isn't it interesting that the angel didn't tell him how to be saved. Have you ever wondered why the angels don't win people to Jesus?

You see, if you're a believer you can do something that not even an angel can do. You can go into someone's home and take your Bible and sit down and share your personal testimony with them. You can say to them, "I was once lost like you are, and then I realized my need for Jesus. I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sin. I invited Him, by faith, to come into my heart and into my life. And what Jesus has done for me. He will do for you."

Now, folks, I'm telling you that there is not an angel around the throne of God who can tell that story to another human being. God has chosen to allow saved sinners to go and tell other sinners that what He has done for them He can also do for them. We have a privilege that angels cannot have.

But with soldier like obedience, Cornelius called for two servants and a guard and sent them on this important mission - the mission of seeking out Simon Peter. The Spirit was leading all of this activity.

But I want you to know that the Spirit was not only preparing Cornelius, the Spirit was preparing Peter as well.

Where ever God is at work. He leads "at both ends of the line." He prepares us for what He is preparing for us. In verse 9 we're told that Peter went up on the housetop to pray. He's up there praying and he's studying his Bible, and he's right there on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. He may be looking out over that sea and wondering about the people over beyond the horizon of the sea; wondering what God's plan and God's purpose was for them. And in the midst of that atmosphere of prayer, he fell into a trance. He fell into an ecstasy and he had a vision.

He saw a great sheet coming down out of heaven. In verse 12 it says that there were all kinds of animals on that sheet. God gave Peter a veritable Noah’s ark to pick from- a meat market. But there was only one problem with the meat market. But God says to Simon Peter concerning all those animals, “Simon Peter, rise, kill and eat.”

Simon Peter said ( and I’ll sort of paraphrase it), “Not on your life, Lord. You know me. I’m a strict Jew.”

Now the reason he said that is because he was under the Levitical laws concerning clean and unclean animals. There were some things that they ate and there were some things they did not eat. An Orthodox Jew, for example, would never eat pork.

So Peter protested. He said, “Not so, Lord!”

Now, ladies and gentlemen, Jesus Christ is Lord. He is absolute Lord. You don’t make him Lord. God made him Lord by virtue of the cross and the resurrection. You don't make him Lord. You just yield to his lordship.

And I want to say that he is either Lord of all, or he is not Lord at all. You can't call him Lord and say, "Not so," to him in the same breath. So God is doing something in Peter's life. God is beginning to help Peter to grow.

Now, of course, you know exactly what the vision represented, don't you? You know what the sheet and the animals represented. It represents all of the nations of the world, all of the races of humanity. That's what the animals represent. And Simon Peter is standing above them. He felt better than every one of them. He says to the Lord, "Not so, Lord!"

Look in verse 14. He says, "for I have never...." Have you ever heard those words before. "I have never...."

I have a book in my library written by Ralph Neighbour, and the title of the book is “The Seven Last Words of the Church.” Do you know what they are? The seven last words of the church are “we’ve never done it that way before.” And that’s what Peter is saying. There are a lot of people in our church like that. “We’ve never done it that way. We’ve never tried that.”

The theme song of a lot of dear Baptist people is this right here. “As it was into eh beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen and Amen.”

I want to tell you something , folks. You’ve got to be willing to change methods and do some different things to reach people for the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, the message doesn’t change. The word of God is inerrant and it does not change. It is the immutable impeccable infallible word of God. The Word doesn't change, but the methods that are used to get the word of God to the people sometimes has to change.

And then God makes the statement that just absolutely shatters the prejudice in the heart of Simon Peter. The Lord says to him in verse 15, "What God has cleansed, you must not call common.'" You see, Simon had not understood the far-reaching effects of the blood of Jesus at the cross of Calvary. And when Jesus shed his blood on Calvary's cross, he made it possible for "'whosoever will" to be cleansed from their sins. There are no common peoples in the world.

I want to tell you something, folks. We need to deal with the old prejudices in our hearts. I tell you what you do sometimes. Sometimes you just sit down with a piece of paper and you just write out those folks who are not acceptable to you; those people who would be unacceptable to you I tell you what you do. You go home with the list and you lift it into the face of God and say, "Not so. Lord!" I'll tell you something. Every person on this earth has a right to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And I'm convinced that we feel that way as a church. But the point that I want to make here is that the Spirit of God was at work in the heart of Cornelius. And the Spirit of God was at work in the heart of Simon Peter. God was at work at both ends of the spectrum. So we see not only the focus of the heart of God, but we see the preparation by the Spirit of God. But then I want you to notice

III. The Obedience Of The Man Of God

Peter had just seen this vision. He was standing on the rooftop of this house scratching his head. He was trying to think through the implications of everything that had happened. As he stood on the rooftop, there was the Mediterranean Sea stretching out in front of him. About that time there was a knock on the door. Cornelius had sent two of his servants and one soldier to come over there to Simon Peter.

About that time, he heard the conversation downstairs and he goes downstairs. And he says, "Yeah, I know what you're talking about. Spend the night with us and tomorrow we'll take off."

So the next day Simon Peter gets some guys to go with him and he heads over there to the city of Caesarea.

Now, I want you to keep in mind that up until this time the apostles had not preached to the Gentiles. And Peter did not go to the Gentiles because he was obeying the Great Commission, but because the Spirit had distinctly commanded him to go. In fact, when Peter arrived at the house of Cornelius, he asked, “For what reason have you sent for me?” At this point Peter did not understand all that God was doing in bringing the gospel to the Gentiles. But he was obedient.

And I pray that we will be obedient to take the gospel beyond our own paradigm. We have some men in Venezuela right now who are helping

missionaries down there in the Amazon jungle.

I remember in 1992 when I went to the Ukraine. I went to the town of Jagotin, about 100 kilometers south of Kiev, and I spoke in one of the schools there. I talked about Jesus Christ. When I had finished, a high school student, a young lady, came up to me and said, "How long has it been since Jesus died for sinners?"

I said, "Two thousand years ago."

And she said, "You mean He died for me two thousand years ago and I only heard about it today? This is something that everyone in the Ukraine needs to hear, and they need to hear it today."

I have an idea that there are people all over the world that are hearing the story of the love of Jesus for the very first time. And they are saying, “It’s a wonderful story. Do the men and women in America; do the men and women in Georgia; do the men and women in Marietta; do the men and women at Eastside believe it?”


“Well, how can they believe it and not share it? Why have they waited such a long time in getting the message to us?”

So we need to go. If not for a lifetime, for a month or a week.

Marian Preminger was born in Hungary in 1913. Raised in a castle with her aristocrat family, I surrounded with maids, tutors, governesses, butlers

and chauffeurs, her grandmother who lived with them insisted that whenever they travel they take their own linen, for she believed it was beneath their dignity to sleep between sheets used by common people.

While attending school in Vienna, Marian met a handsome young Viennese doctor. They fell in love, eloped, and married when she was only eighteen. The marriage lasted only a year, and she returned to Vienna to begin her life as an actress.

While auditioning for a play, she met the brilliant young German director. Otto Preminger. They fell in love and soon married. They went to America soon thereafter where he began his career as a movie director. Unfortunately and tragically, Hollywood is a place of dramatic illustrations of people "biting and devouring and consuming” one another. Marian and Otto were caught up in the glamour, lights and superficial excitement and soon began to live a sordid life. They divorced.

Marian returned to Europe to live the life of a socialite in Paris. In 1948 she learned through the newspaper that Albert Schweitzer, the man she had read about as a little girl, was making one of his periodic visits to Europe and was staying at Gunsbach. She phoned his secretary and was given an appointment to see Dr. Schweitzer the next day. When Marian arrived in Gunsbach she discovered he was in the village church playing the organ. She listened and turned the pages of music for him. After a visit he invited her to have dinner at his house. Bu the end of the day she knew she had discovered what she had been looking for all her life. She was with him every day thereafter during his visit. And when he returned to Africa, he invited her to come to Lambarene and work in the hospital.

Marian did - and found herself. There in Lambarene the girl who was born in a castle and raised like a princess, who was accustomed to being waited on with all the luxuries of a spoiled life, became a servant. She changed bandages, bathed babies, fed lepers... and became free, Marian wrote her autobiography and called it "All I Ever Wanted Was Everything." She could not get the "everything" that would satisfy and give meaning until she could give everything. When she died in 1979 the New York Times carried her obituary which included this statement from her: "Albert Schweitzer said there are two classes of people in the world - the helpers and the non-helpers. I am a helper."

Of course, missions begin at home. And you're either a helper to get the message of Jesus Christ out to a lost world beginning here at home, or you're a non-helper. And those who cannot go need to give. I was talking to Rhonda Molloy the other day, one of the members of our church. She was telling me about her son, Matt, who made a commitment. She said Matt was always finding money; pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters. Matt is only eleven years of age, but he made a commitment. He said, "All the money that I'm going to find, I'm going to give to the church." I thought that was pretty neat.

And Rhonda said, "You know, not long after Matt made that commitment, we were going into this place of business," (I don't remember whether she said it was a bowling alley or a skating rink, but something like that) "and he found $20 on the steps outside this establishment. He tried to find the owner. He inquired inside. He tried to find if anybody there had lost $20. He waited for three weeks before he did anything." You can well imagine that this would be a real test of his commitment. Spend it or give it. Rhonda said, "With Matt it was not an issue. He'd made a commitment to give whatever he found to the Lord, and he did it."

Listen, I want you to make a commitment this year to make your biggest and best Christmas gift to Jesus through a Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for Foreign Missions. Some of us can go, but I think all of us can give - at least something.

But Peter was obedient. He did exactly what the Spirit of God urged him to do. Let's move from the focus of the heart of God and the preparation by the Spirit of God and the obedience of the man of God to

IV. The Proclamation Of The Word Of God

Now, I want you to notice what Cornelius had been doing. He had been gathering friends. He had been calling folks. He had been getting his family together. He says to them, "We're going to have a preacher who's going to come and we're going to have a house service. This preacher is going to give us some words that will tell us about salvation. So when Simon Peter comes to Cornelius' house, notice what it says in verse 33. In the middle of the verse: "Now therefore we are all present before God to hear all the things commanded you by God."

Now, I want to tell you what, folks. That is an ideal congregation. Did you know a congregation has a lot to do with the message? There is an electric spark that takes place between preacher and congregation when things are really hooked up.

I like the terminology that our young people sometimes use. You know, when the preacher and the congregation are hooked up; when things are going on; when the preacher is really in tune and when the congregation is really responsive and receptive. Sometimes the young people will say, "Preacher, you was cookin' this morning?" That's a pretty good way to describe it. You can pretty well make a message or kill a message by your response. Now look at this. This is the way we ought to come to every service that we come to. "Now therefore we are all present before God to hear all the things commanded you by God."

Now, you let me tell you what. You gather folks together in that kind of attitude and that is the greatest kind of situation there is anywhere; people who want to hear the word of God; people who have a hunger for the word of God. You know. God gets interested in a church like that, and God will send his word to people who have a hunger for the word of God.

Now, what kind of sermon did this gathered congregation hear? I don't have time to give you all the points of the sermon, but if you begin reading in verse 34 and read right on down through the end of the chapter, you will discover that to this gathered congregation he preaches a sermon about a universal Savior and a universal salvation.

Let me tell you about this Jesus. Jesus is not a black man's Christ. Jesus is not a white man's Christ. He is not a yellow man's Christ. He is every man's Christ. "Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight."

And notice the message that Peter proclaimed. In verse 36 he presented Jesus as the Peace of God. In verse 38 he presented Jesus as the Power of God. In verse 38 he presented Jesus as the Presence of God. In verse 43 he presented Jesus as the Pardon of God.

Someone gave this suggestion to preachers: "Know your stuff, know who you're stuffing, and then stuff them." This is just what Simon Peter did. Simon Peter presented Christ. And in the midst of his message, Cornelius yielded his life to the Lord. In that moment of acceptance, Cornelius was ushered into the family of God.

Then notice verse 47 and 48A ( read). Folks, I praise God for everybody that wins somebody to the Lord Jesus Christ, but I get a little bit suspicious of folks who are always recounting the folks they win to the Lord and you never see any of them. I get a little bit concerned about the folks who see so many people saved, but yet they never show up. They never walk down a church aisle. They never get baptized. Folks, you haven’t done it the New Testament way until you do it just exactly like it was done in the house of Cornelius. Cornelius got saved and they led him to the water. His household got saved and they led them to water. Baptism didn’t save them but it identified them Jesus Christ. Baptism does not confer salvation, but it confirms salvation. It is an outward demonstration of an inward transformation that has taken place in your heart.

Now look at the last phrase, the last sentence in the whole chapter. It says, “Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.” You know, the genuine converts want additional fellowship. They want additional instruction. They wanted Peter just to continue there for several more days so they could continue to learn and continue to grow and continue to rejoice in the things which God had done.

But God is no respecter of persons. And in every nation of every social class and in every economic group of every race, the one who fears God is welcome to Him. It may be said about the family of God that no one is so good that he or she should stay out, and no one is so bad he or she cannot enter in. Amen.